Plenary talk: Thomas F. Glick

Information transfer in Islamic Spain: How Ancient Science came to Western Europe

The Islamic conquest of the 8th century CE produced a vast -˜free trade' zone extending from Spain in the West to India in the East, which created a medium for the flow of ideas and techniques. The scientific ideas transmitted were mainly those of Ancient Greece and India, translated, studied, and commented in Baghdad and then diffused throughout the Islamic Empire. In Spain (Al-Andalus, as it was known to the Arabs), continuous culture contact with the Christian Spanish kingdoms allowed for the pooling of Arabic manuscripts in Toledo and other centers of translation from the 12th century on in Latin, Hebrew, and Romance vernacular (Castilian, Catalan) versions. These three linguistic targets of translation had similar techniques and standards for translation, but different rationales and different sources of demand. As news of the new learning of the Arabs spread scholars from England, France, Germany, and Italy were drawn to Spain in order to master it.

Thomas F. Glick, professor at Boston University, teaches on the history of medieval Spain, especially on the development and spread of science and technology and on food history, and has been visiting Professor of the History of Science at the Universitat de València and at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo, Uruguay. In Valencia he became involved with saving the region's mills and was a founder of the Valencian Association of the Friends of Mills. For years Professor Glick has collected information on the technical knowledge of the Muslim and Jewish communities of early modern Spain -” exploring their parallel experiences as agents in the spread of technology. His chapter on science in his volume Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages (1978) was the first synthesis in English of research from the School of Barcelona -” a circle of historians of medieval Arabic and Jewish science at the University of Barcelona. Subsequent work has dealt with the Jewish contribution to medieval Iberian science, on scholarly relations between medieval Jews and Christians, and on practical science as developed by medieval Arabs and Jews. He co-edited the Routledge Encyclopedia of Medieval Science, Technology and Medicine (2005), in which his articles on -œTranslation Movements- and -œTechnological Diffusion- summarized his perspectives in those areas.


I forgot my password